The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) has received major support from the Government of Canada, allowing it to extend its maternal and child health program to protect against COVID-19.
PWRDF announced in June that it had received a nearly $2-million grant from the federal government to extend the work of its partners in the All Mothers and Children Count (AMCC) program by implementing health and safety measures for the pandemic. The budget totals an estimated $2.3 million, and PWRDF has committed to fundraise $313,000, or 15% of that amount. A designated box on the organization’s online giving page is accepting donations to the AMCC COVID-19 Extension that will be matched six-to-one by the federal government, PWRDF says.
AMCC seeks to lower mortality rates for both mothers and children under five years old. It operates with partners in four African countries: Mozambique, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda. Some are facility-based, operating hospitals and clinics in rural settings. The guiding focus of AMCC is preventive health education for pregnant women.
The $20-million program began in 2016 and wrapped up at the end of 2019. But the additional funding will benefit health providers and patients at clinics supported by AMCC—paying for personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and clothes for disposal, as well as establishing washing stations in clinics with soap, clean water and disinfectant.
Zaida Bastos, director of development partnership programs for PWRDF, designed the AMCC program along with external funding program manager Richard Librock. She also led the effort to procure the extended grant for COVID-19 prevention measures.
“With COVID, one of the first reactions was for people to avoid health facilities,” Bastos says. “In countries where we work, one of the first problems faced by health-care givers was lack of PPE. They didn’t have the proper equipment to continue to provide health services in a safe way—safe for the patient and safe for the health providers.”
The additional funding by the Canadian government, she says, ensures that “all the gains that we made by lowering maternal and newborn child [mortality] indicators would not be lost by people no longer going to the clinics” out of a fear of being infected.
“This grant will allow us to continue to provide these maternal, newborn and child health services by equipping the health practitioners with the necessary equipment to provide care in a safe way—but also to continue to educate the community on how to prevent contagion of COVID.”
One of the PWRDF partners for AMCC is Village Health Works, a non-profit organization which operates a medical clinic and school in rural Burundi and is currently constructing a hospital there. The majority of people in the area are subsistence farmers, few of whom have electricity. Ranking among the poorest countries in the world, Burundi faces high rates of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition and malaria.
Throughout its first four years, AMCC supported Village Health Works initiatives such as a community health worker program as well as a model farmer program to improve food security. It also helped the organization obtain medicines, supplies and lab equipment for its clinic and pharmacy.
Wade Zamechek, director of development for Village Health Works, says that, although Burundi does not seem to have been overrun with COVID, there is also not a lot of capacity to test for it in the country. He believes the influx of funding from PWRDF and Global Affairs Canada (GAC) has played a vital role in reducing the spread of infection among health workers and patients at their clinic.
“We were prepared with some PPE,” Zamechek says. “We had I think several thousand N95 masks, some gowns and things like that, but not nearly enough. PWRDF and GAC are coming in to help with a lot more PPE, which will help us. They’re also helping us with procuring central equipment for the hospital that’ll help us fight COVID.”
“We’re super grateful for the partnership and the support we’ve had with PWRDF and GAC,” Zamechek says. “We’re thrilled that this is continuing, and especially helping us respond to COVID.”
Besides PPE and sanitation, the grant has also helped improve community outreach to protect against coronavirus. Village Health Works has approximately 200 community health workers and is working to ensure they are trained and equipped to track and confront COVID-19, from contact tracing to delivering essential medicines.
“The grant is helping us with a lot of the hygiene and cleaning supplies that go into COVID response, making sure that our campus [and] our clinic [are] fully sanitized,” senior program manager Sophie Matte says.
Matte describes PWRDF as “a key pillar for us to really grow and strengthen our activities. They’ve been our biggest institutional partner in terms of activity.”